Baez's status unclear; Kawasaki a viable option

Baez's status unclear; Kawasaki a viable option

MESA, Ariz. -- Javier Baez has not played since March 20 because of a sore left thumb, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon feels he still could be ready for Opening Day.

"It might be a short-term concern as far as when he can get out there again," Maddon said Saturday of Baez, who injured his thumb during a dive into second base. "I have not heard anything negative in a long-term sense."

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If Baez isn't ready for the season opener April 4, the Cubs may look at Munenori Kawasaki, a non-roster invitee who has played second and shortstop this spring.

"He's done a nice job offensively, defensively," Maddon said. "He's done a lot of nice things."

Kawasaki batted .214 in 23 games last season with the Blue Jays, and his antics are featured in several YouTube videos.

"He is a lot of fun, but the other stuff he does is really pertinent," Maddon said. "He's very much a viable option."

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Extra bases

• Maddon met Saturday with the baseball operations staff -- whom he calls the "geeks" -- regarding lineup combinations. One change this season is that shortstop Addison Russell will bat seventh or eighth, not ninth. Maddon is returning to the more traditional National League lineup in which the pitcher bats ninth.

"You look at the other names and that's probably where he belongs," Maddon said of Russell in the seven or eight spot. "I like what he's doing. I'm always concerned about development and I'm always concerned about protection."

As for the geeks and their numbers, Maddon is eager to see what they come up with regarding protection. He likes the lineup to alternate left-right, but which right-handed hitter is best to bat behind Anthony Rizzo, for example?

"I'm wide open to what they have to say," Maddon said.

• Speaking of Rizzo, he started 160 games last season at first base, and that's about how many Maddon expects this year. One thing Maddon talked to Rizzo about last year is that he doesn't need to hit every day which gives him more time to do his prep work in what the manager called "an intelligent manner."

"The new facilities [at Wrigley Field] will provide the ability to get ready for a game better and more easily away from the field," Maddon said. "The old configuration was probably more difficult for the guys to get ready for the game. This year, they'll feel better about it."

• Cubs wives raised $15,000 by selling bats, helmets and other autographed items at their spring fundraiser to benefit Cubs Charities and Paz de Cristo Community Center in Mesa. Someone paid $900 for the autographed car windshield that Kyle Schwarber broke in batting practice this spring.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.